Friday, October 21, 2005

Aesthetic Realism: So Different from Structuralism Yet Somewhat Like It

Some observers, such as Conrad Arensberg of Columbia University[personal communication], have pointed to a resemblance between structuralism, as presented by Claude Levi-Strauss, and the philosophy Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel. Meanwhile, there are also important differences.

The reason for their likeness is that both respect the dialectic process and see opposites as primal in our understanding of the world. A dialectic, writes musicologist Rose Rosengard Subotnick, "enables one to grasp the two opposed priorities as simultaneously valid". []

Aesthetic Realism, however, sees the dialectic process as essentially aesthetic. This makes for very significant differences. Eli Siegel presented reality as having a dialectic structure, yes, but more fundamentally as having an aesthetic structure. That is why, he stated, the world--or reality--can be liked: it has a structure that is beautiful the way a painting or poem is beautiful. This differs from structuralism, which does not neccessarily accent the value--or beauty--of an object's structure, but the structure itself.

This brings us to another difference between structuralism and Aesthetic Realism. The opposites which, Siegel explained, are at the basis of reality are the metaphysical or ontological opposites: such as freedom and order, one and many, sameness and difference, individuality and relation, matter and energy. These are qualities which are in reality as such (see for instance Aristotle's discussion of One and Many in his ''Metaphysics''). And take an electron--it is both substance and form, a particle and a wave. A sonnet is both substance and form (a Shakespearean sonnet about the Dark Lady has subject matter and sonnet form) -- see the similarity? The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle describes every instance of matter as both definite and indefinite (we can know position or velocity but not both). Monet's ''Waterlilies'' are both definite and indefinite--and beautifully so! We feel both opposites at once: hence the idea of dialectic. We see it as beautiful: hence the term aesthetic.

Eli Siegel wrote in his preface to ''The Aesthetic Method in Self-Conflict''(Definition Press, New York: 1946):

"Were there a word as exact as aesthetics for the purpose, we would have been glad to use it. The nearest word, other than aesthetics, is dialectics."

Claude Lévi-Strauss by comparison--the best known of structuralists today--relies on such opposites as ''sky and water'', ''succulent and dessicated'', ''raw and cooked'' which are not ontological, along with such opposites as ''diversity and unity'', ''order and disorder'' which are ontological; but the structuralist approach does not see it as necessary to differentiate between them. That is, ''Raw'' and ''cooked'' are not ontological the way ''disorder'' and ''order'' are; they are not fundamental or inescapable in the description of any reality--though we do use them to describe food as well as other things that we process, e.g.: "He ''cooked up'' a plan for revenge. But it was only a ''half-baked'' plan."

Lévi-Strauss explained that opposites are at the basis of social structure and culture. In his early work he demonstrated that tribal kin groups were usually found in pairs, or in paired groups that both oppose one another and need one another. For example, in the Amazon basin, two different expanded families would build their houses in two facing semi-circles that together make up a big circle. He showed too that the congnitive maps, the ways early folk categorized animals, trees, and so on, were based on a series of oppositions.

Later in his most popular work ''The Raw and the Cooked'' he described the widely dispersed folk tales of tribal South America as all related to one another through a series of transformations--as one opposite in tales ''here'' changes into another opposite in tales ''there''. As the title implies, for instance, Raw becomes its opposite Cooked. These particular opposites (Raw/Cooked) can be considerd as symbolic of human culture itself, in which, by means of thought and labor, raw materials become clothes, food, weapons, art, ideas. Culture, explained Lévi-Strauss, is a dialectic process: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

While Aesthetic Realism has a resemblance to structuralism and other philosophic thought, and arises from the Western philosophic tradition, it also differs in this fundamental way: Eli Siegel stated that art, the self, and the sciences have in common a structure of fundamental opposites--opposites which make for beauty. "The world, art, and self explain each other," he state: "Each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites." This relation among those three things: reality, the human self, and art, had not been understood before.


Important Links to know about

As an educator myself I have used, and highly recommend to every teacher, the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method. This educational method, taught by Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism, has been successfully used to teach a wide variety of subjects (K-12 and beyond) for over 30 years. Students learn their subjects with a beautiful eagerness and thoroughness. The most compact introduction to the theory of aesthetics on which Aesthetic Realism is based would be "Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?" and the chapter "The Aesthetic Method in Self- Conflict" from Self and World. Some of the many subjects Aesthetic Realism is resoundingly true about include not only the very basis of aesthetics in general, but photography in particular; not only conflict in the human self as such but a new perspective for anthropology and sociology in particular and a way of seeing a person, whether man or woman, in relation to history, current events, and art--as the website created by Lynette Abel shows -- and that by journalist Alice Bernstein, an Aesthetic Realism Associate. The large online body of work on these very subjects has been provided by Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, who writes on the "criticism" of John Keats as well as, for example, on poet Robert Burns, and much more. Meanwhile, to learn more about Mr. Siegel, you can visit the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company, as well as biographical information on the Aesthetic Realism Foundation website. Meanwhile, I am sorry to say that as has occurred so often in history, a very few people have attempted to smear this new knowledge and present it as far from what it truly is. This is documented on the important website titled Friends of Aesthetic Realism—Countering the Lies--which I hope you visit.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Aesthetic Realism and Anthropology Class schedule Fall 2005

Aesthetic Realism and Anthropology
Fall Semester, 2005
Conducted by: Arnold Perey
Class is given from 6:00 - 7:30 PM on Alternate Wednesdays

The Aesthetic Structure of Society

Are the greatest anthropological studies based on aesthetics—the oneness of opposites? This semester we shall look at the question.

1. September 21 The Cheyennes: Restraint and Abandon
The Cheyennes, Indians of the Great Plains by E. Adamson Hoebel. Are these two opposites turbulently in people everywhere, and do they also make for beauty?
2. October 5 The Nuer: Resistant and Yielding—Like You and Me
E.E. Evans-Pritchard’s classic The Nuer (East Africa) tells of personal opposites that no society can exist without.
3. October 19 Impelled by the Lure of Romance in New Guinea
A society is like a body that needs emotion to drive it, said Bronislaw Malinowski in his classic of functionalism, Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Are Animate and inanimate two opposites always basic to society and to ourselves?
4. November 2 The !Kung of the Kalahari Desert
Richard B. Lee’s study of these hunters tells of junction and separation in a dramatic, severe, and beautiful environment. Do any people exist without togetherness and separation in their lives? What is the meaning of this?
5. November 19 SATURDAY Self and World on a Polynesian Island
We meet with The Visual Arts and the Opposites class taught by Marcia Rackow at 11 AM at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and see the show “Adorning the World.” The opposites of self and world are in every society and every life. They make for both conflict and beauty.
6. November 30 Middletown: The Urgency of For and Against
Middletown by Robert and Helen Lynd (1929) is a classic study of an American city. Is America and every person in it for and against?
7. December 14 Your Neighborhood
Students speak on an instance of anthropology. Are self and world, for and against, or junction and separation in your neighborhood? Choose one pair of opposites and see.
Further Online Resources

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ellen Reiss on "criticizing" John Keats in 1818

Ellen Reiss's editorial commentary in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, issue # 1319

In her important commentary about Eli Siegel's lecture Poetry and Keenness, Ellen Reiss writes on an intensely relevant matter concerning the Internet today. What a person may present to the public as his smartest perception--may really be nothing more than disparagement and malice. In 1818 a "keenly" critical review of the great poet John Keats was published by a noted literary figure--and that figure has gone down in history as an example of stupidity and meanness about a great contemporary. 

On the Web today there are a few persons who flatter themselves by calling themselves "critics" of Aesthetic Realism and of the persons who study and teach it. In reality they are liars of the most egregious kind and will be seen as examples of stupidity and meanness in our time.

Ellen Reiss writes in this editorial commentary:

"As we are determined to ferret out fakery while ignoring value, and sometimes ferret out fakery that doesn’t exist, we are not keen but dumb: to see a thing as our ego prefers and not as the thing is, is as stupid as saying the earth is flat or Boston is a pleasant tropical city in the heart of South America. Further, rooking ourselves of what we were born for — to like the world honestly, be just to it, find meaning in it — is not keen, but idiotic; yet millions of people who think they are keen are doing just that...."

Ms. Reiss continues:

"A person important in the history of periodical criticism, or reviewing, is someone who can be used to study the fight in every person between true and false keenness. John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854) had true keenness, which is the desire to cut through superficiality and see and feel as fully and accurately as possible what a thing is. But he also had, with terrific notability, the false keenness people go after, of making the bright, scathing, ever so effective statement, while not feeling and seeing truly the thing he was commenting on.

"A critic, Mr. Siegel has explained, "makes a good thing look good, a bad thing look bad, and a middling thing look middling." Lockhart was so sharp and stinging a critic that he was called "The Scorpion." Yet in various instances — one monumental — he was quite wrong. It is generally agreed now that he is the author of the 1818 review of John Keats’s Endymion in Blackwood’s Magazine. And we have in that influential review a kind of brilliance and keenness which was the same as a vast inability to feel and see the value of Keats.

"Lockhart was the son-in-law of Sir Walter Scott, and his 1837 Life of Scott has been called the greatest biography in English after Boswell’s Johnson.

"He was impelled there by a powerful desire both to be exact and to be affected deeply. He wrote on German literature, and he translated, with feeling, old Spanish ballads into English. Yet, as the 5th edition (1985) of The Oxford Companion to English Literature tells it, 'In 1817 he began [in Blackwood’s] a long series of attacks on, in particular, Leigh Hunt, Keats, and Hazlitt, castigating them as the low-born ‘Cockney School of Poetry.’' The attacks included Keats’s Poems of 1817; then in 1818 Lockhart reviewed Endymion. Here are some of the sarcastic, clever, oh-so-keen sentences from that review. (The "malady" Lockhart refers to is Keats’s feeling he could write poetry.)
    To witness the disease of any human understanding, however feeble, is distressing; but the spectacle of an able mind reduced to a state of insanity is of course ten times more afflicting. It is with such sorrow as this that we have contemplated the case of Mr. John Keats....He was bound apprentice some years ago to a worthy apothecary in town. But all has been undone by a sudden attack of the malady....For some time we were in hopes, that he might get off with a violent fit or two; but of late the symptoms are terrible. The phrenzy of the "Poems" was bad enough in its way; but it did not alarm us half so seriously as the calm, settled, imperturbable drivelling idiocy of "Endymion."
"At the conclusion of the review, Lockhart advises Keats to resume his former occupation: 'Back to the [apothecary] shop Mr John, back to ‘plasters, pills, and ointment boxes.’'

"This was written by a person enamored of how "keen" he could be. But because Lockhart couldn’t be affected, couldn’t see value where value existed, yet felt that to sneer was astute, he wasn’t keen but ugly and ridiculous.

"The fight in Lockhart is a fight in everyone: between the keenness of wanting to see and feel the meaning of things, and that contemptuous "keenness" which is really retardation and disability. Because Eli Siegel’s purpose was always to see truly, he was the keenest, kindest, most accurate critic — of both art and life in all their fulness. This keen, deep, alive seeing is immortal in Aesthetic Realism. But it was there, day after day, in the sentences he, as person, spoke — the most beautiful thing I know in the world. The resentment of his greatness by persons of the press and others— their anger that they couldn’t feel superior to Aesthetic Realism and are so enormously affected by it—is both infinitely mean and infinitely stupid. It is through Aesthetic Realism that humanity will have the real keenness we long for, about our own lives and the world!"


More about Ellen Reiss:

You can see more of Ms. Reiss's literary criticism in her commentaries on (1) Robert Burns, in which she shows that Burns is "a means of asking, How should jobs and work be in this land"; on (2) Eli Siegel's gathering of poems titled "The Persistence of Fabric", which, she states, "have the factual immediacy of cloth one can touch—and also the mystery that can be in the feelings of people: the emotions that whirl within us, or rustle in us, even as we put on a well-fitting garment"; and on (3) "Nature, Romanticism, and Harry Potter", in which she writes: "I'll comment here on a work that, 50 years later, has been affecting men, women, and children throughout the English-speaking world. I refer to the first of the Harry Potter novels, by J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, originally published in England in 1997. What does its enormous popularity say about people and what they are looking for?"

And you can visit these resources:

Statement about the way Aesthetic Realism has been met

Persons with broad knowledge in scholarly and humanistic fields--from art and poetry to literary criticism and the social sciences-- say that the innovations due to Aesthetic Realism have great importance, should be known, and have already had a striking educational impact.

Meanwhile, the furtherance of the scientific and humanistic goals which Aesthetic Realism stands for preeminently, has angered some individuals. These have worked to disparage this new education with pejoratives much like those directed against abolitionists by slave-owning Southerners. Their motive, in the 19th century, was to have their egos uninterfered with so they could continue to own other human beings for profit. And those who have attacked Aesthetic Realism bear a resemblance to Cato the Censor (in ancient Rome) who was known for his desire to stifle what is kind, gracious, and pleasing.

The controversy here is also like that between Darwin and his detractors, which is still going on. That is, there's new knowledge about the world and one's place in it, while the ego says, "How can I, in all my important self-ness, be related to things that seem so different and beneath me--a frog or a grasshopper or, God forbid, a human being of another color?"


Important Links to know about

As an educator myself I have used, and highly recommend to every teacher, the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method. This educational method, taught by Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism, has been successfully used to teach a wide variety of subjects (K-12 and beyond) for over 30 years. Sudents learn their subjects with a beautiful eagerness and thoroughness. The most compact introduction to the theory of aesthetics on which Aesthetic Realism is based would be "Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?" and the chapter "The Aesthetic Method in Self- Conflict" from Self and World. Some of the many subjects Aesthetic Realism is resoundingly true about include not only the very basis of aesthetics in general, but photography in particular; not only conflict in the human self as such but a new perspective for anthropology and sociology in particular and a way of seeing a person, whether man or woman, in relation to history, current events, and art--as the website created by Lynette Abel shows -- and that by journalist Alice Bernstein, an Aesthetic Realism Associate. The large online body of work on these very subjects has been provided by Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, who writes on the "criticism" of John Keats as well as, for example, on poet Robert Burns, and much more. Meanwhile, to learn more about Mr. Siegel, you can visit the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company, as well as biographical information on the Aesthetic Realism Foundation website. Meanwhile, I am sorry to say that as has occurred so often in history, a very few people have attempted to smear this new knowledge and present it as far from what it truly is. This is documented on the important website titled Friends of Aesthetic Realism—Countering the Lies--which I hope you visit.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A note about a most important new way of seeing aesthetics

The Aesthetic Realism Foundation, listed in Aesthetics Online (see, is a not-for-profit educational foundation that is so innovative—so important to the advancement of aesthetics today—that I think everyone ought to know about it.

As I once wrote in my doctoral thesis (Columbia University, 1973)

“Eli Siegel sees aesthetics as more comprehensive than other authors. He defines it poetically in 'Free Poem on "The Siegel Theory of Opposites" in Relation to Aesthetics' this way:

Aesthetics is the science of what is,
When that which is, is seen as opposites—
In common language, when it's beautiful. (1958:51)”

The above page reference (1958:51) is to Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana: Poems.

And so, the Aesthetic Realism approach enables aesthetics to be used, scientifically, to more deeply understand anthropology—which it has been my pleasure to pursue these 30 years (see A New Perspective for Anthropology). And if you visit the Terrain Gallery website (the Art Criticism and History page) you will see how Aesthetic Realism enables a critic to relate paintings, architecture, photography, to the very self of a person (see

One can only be deeply affected to read, for example, how the portrait of an American beauty, Madame Pierre Gautreau, is analyzed by an American woman today; how she describes the great dilemma of woman as to assertion and retreat-- and the solution to this dilemma in technical aesthetics. See SARGENT'S "MADAME X"; OR, ASSERTION AND RETREAT IN WOMAN by Lynette Abel.

For these reasons and much more – for the fact that aesthetics can now be respected as adding to one’s perception in everyday life, as one pours coffee or eats a croissant or bagel, or speaks to a loved one, or thinks about war and peace – it is of immediate importance that this new understanding of aesthetics be known.

I hope that whoever you are reading this, you will join me in this effort wholeheartedly.


Important Links to know about

Here is biographical information about Eli Siegel. An introduction to Aesthetic Realism is in his Preface to Self and World together with The Aesthetic Method in Self-Conflict. There are lectures by Eli Siegel online, as well as essays with his definitive scholarship in diverse fields. Also see his historic questions about the nature of beauty, "Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?" Together with reviews of Eli Siegel's poetry and other works and reviews of newly published books he wrote for Scribner's Magazine in the 1930s, these provide a beginning point to know more.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Aesthetic Realism Can Resolve the Confusion in Men about Warmth and Coolness--including in Love and Marriage

From the Aesthetic Realism Seminar of April 14, 2005

All over the world, men are confused about whether they want to be warm or cool--hot-blooded or "calm and collected"; intense or restrained. A man can be a fiery advocate in a cause representing justice. And a man can also be overheated in the cause of his own narrow ego. We can feel we are being passionate about a woman--her body, her lips--while in reality we are deeply cold to her. At work, we can be cool and efficient under pressure, and then later at home get into a rage because someone drank the soda we were saving for ourselves.

Aesthetic Realism is new in understanding our conflict about coolness and warmth. "Every person," Eli Siegel explained, "is always trying to put together opposites in himself." And warmth and coolness are two of those opposites. They confuse us because we don't know what our purpose is for being either cool or warm. Both can be in the service of contempt or respect. And when they are in service of contempt--as they were very frequently in me--a person is both pained and deeply unkind.

A man learns from Aesthetic Realism how to use his warmth, energy, passion in behalf of the world--and this includes having good will for a woman--and to use our capacity to be exact and organized for the same purpose: to be fair. Then, these opposites come to make sense, which is what a man desires most.

1. Aesthetic Realism Explains Warmth and Coolness in the Self

"The danger in a self," Mr. Siegel explained,

is about heat and cold, a bad mingling of them or a separation of them. In this way our life is incomplete, or we don't like it; and our own selves are likewise incomplete.....we can get too excited, or we can become too cold. We can expand ourselves in a sloppy fashion, or contract in a hurtful fashion...
[TRO 997]

This describes what I did. The way cool and warm were separate in me, and also intermingled badly, confused me because I largely didn’t have good will.

I was most often cool to a person's troubles and went about my own business, saving my warmth for my own concerns. This, and the way I was hotly argumentative, hoping to be superior; the way I could be loftily apart, and then become explosive--be an icicle that got hot under the collar--were forms of contempt and they made me dislike my life very much. Mr. Siegel once said of me, commenting on my coolness and heat: It's hard to think this of such a calm being, but he has been "Furnace Perey."

The place I felt most composed and most excited was as I studied anthropology. In graduate school I began to learn what is called participant observation in courses with Margaret Mead. For example, I remember liking the feeling I had when I went to a service at a mosque on Riverside Drive for an assignment and took part in the ritual, observing other people's responses and my own. And when I wrote my description, which I called “The L-Shaped Room,” I tried to be exact and show my feelings.

But this was very different from what I felt most of the time. In college, with women, the way I was excited and cool, what I was warm to and cold to, did not make sense. For example, on my first and only date with a girl, Linda, a counselor at an upstate NY camp, while we were driving and having a very interesting conversation, I got hungry and brought out the "emergency" cold chicken sandwich that my mother had made for me. I was amazingly unaware of Linda and didn't offer it to her. She asked, "Can I help you eat this?" I felt a flood of warmth and said, "Of course." Not only had my mother served me in making the sandwich, but another woman was going to assist my eating it! As I waited for Linda to feed it to me, she gave me half and began to eat the other half herself. Suddenly I realized what she meant: she really wanted to help do the eating! This incident was emblematic of my social life--the way I was too often warmed and excited by the wrong things and separate from, and cold to, another's feelings.

A great worry arose in me and it is something that affects many men. In college there were several women whom I thought pretty and intelligent and gazed at with melting looks, but then, when close bodily proximity came to be, I felt nothing--the seeming flame I had felt before was just cold. This made me feel deeply incomplete as a man, and I was afraid that there wasn't any answer.

How often this happens, and how many men want to be warmer, is evidenced by the explosive popularity of prescription drugs such as Viagra. But while a chemical remedy is presented, the deep cause of insufficient response in how a man sees, remains generally unknown.

Some years later, in an Aesthetic Realism lesson--the one place I ever really thought I would get a solution for this--I spoke about my concern. I was very surprised when Mr. Siegel asked me if I was against my own conceit. "Do you believe," he asked, "there is a desire on your combat [your] lofty tendencies?" There was! He explained what was not present in any book dealing with the subject--and I had read quite a bit--that this difficulty about potency was an elaborate way of punishing myself for, he said, "declaring yourself to be better than" people, including women. And I began to see, with great relief, that there was an answer. As my study of Aesthetic Realism continued and I heard incisive criticism of how I had exalted myself and lessened a woman's mind, her ethics--this situation decisively and definitely changed.

And I'm proud that my colleagues and I have been able ask questions in Aesthetic Realism consultations on this subject, such as: Have you felt so ashamed of your desire to use a woman's body without respecting her, that you have been unable to be close to her? Do you think a man can feel the world itself, including in the form of a woman's body, is not good enough to please him? If a man is angry at a woman, which would he rather do: punish her by being cold, withholding himself at a crucial moment, which is deeply mean, or try to strengthen her through being critical with good will, which is the real warmth?

2. Warmth and Coolness in an Etching and Life

Unlike all the disciplines I looked into--without finding the self-knowledge I hoped for--Aesthetic Realism understands the human self, and central in that understanding is its showing how we see the world affects everything in our lives, including sex. In order to understand myself better, I brought this etching in to a class with Eli Siegel only days after beginning to study.


As he looked at it, Mr. Siegel, referring to the eye in the upper center, began to ask about the coolness and detachment that had confused me so much. "What you would like to do, is gaze at everything?"

AP Yes.

ES There is an eye here that seems rather uncomfortable and alone -- it
also seems to act as if it's the wisest thing going.

AP That eye is being swallowed by the bird.

ES I don't think this would be swallowed because you make that bird ineffectual....If I looked into the allegory, I would say the bird, being Arnold Perey, wanted to swallow his desire to be one-eyed Arnold Perey looking too composedly at things.

This was true.

Then Mr. Siegel asked, "You are against yourself for being just an observer, but you also don't like to participate?"

"Yes," I said.

And he pointed out the way to solve this is not to do away with being composed, or with observation, but to join those with the desire to be active, energetic--and have a good effect. Mr. Siegel said, "The eye, instead of simply looking, also wants to be somewhat more like these whirling globes." This oneness of observing and actively participating is good will--the encouraging of other people's lives, with the hope that they be stronger and more worthy of respect. This desire is true warmth, and because it is also exact, it has a right coolness, too.

3. Good Will Brings Cool and Warm Honestly Together, in Love

A man can change how he sees the world and women. My life, and my marriage to Barbara Allen, are witness to that. I learned that the purpose of love is not the ownership and conquest I was after, it is to use a woman to like the world with. I changed fundamentally as I learned what this means. I heard beautiful, tough criticism for my unjust and really brutal way of seeing -- wanting to possess a woman, have her absorbed exclusively in me and not have a mind that ranges far and wide, comes to new knowledge; wanting to use her to complain about other people and have her soothe all my presumed hurts by monumental praise of my brilliance--and agreement with me in all matters.

In one class, early in my study, Mr. Siegel explained:

You have the feeling that you, in some way, have conquered the world because a woman is, in a silly fashion, solicitous towards you....[she] fixes the bandages with a little kiss.

And he also said:

You'd like to have a situation with a woman like that with your mother: you'd torment her, she'd forgive you, and life would go on.

Had this not changed I most assuredly would not have the marriage I am grateful to have now.

Shortly before Barbara and I married, I met Mr. Siegel as he was taking an evening walk. It was early spring and the sun, surrounded by glowing red clouds, was setting. Eastward the sky was blue. Mr. Siegel looked up and said--"My hope for you in your marriage is that you be like the sky--as cool as that blue (he pointed) and as passionate as that red."

I love him because my Aesthetic Realism education has made that emotion possible. The lack of bodily feeling in sex that troubled me so much, ended. This is a magnificent change for which I am unboundedly grateful. I love my wife, both body and mind, with a fulness and physical completeness that means so very much to me. I love her depth of thought--her desire to be just to the grand­est and subtlest thought in history. I respect what has come from that desire: a new understanding of music and of the flute's capability to cause melting and stirring beauty as she plays it; and the way she teaches what she has learned to men, women, and children. And I am proud to be able to be close to her.

4. A Young Man Learns Aesthetic Realism Today

I describe and comment now on the consultations of Daniel Venner. Born in Maine, where, he told us, "I went fishing, hunting, and had many good times," he also cared for the piano, the mountains of Maine, literature, and computers. After he graduated from college in New York, he began to work in the engineering department of a nonprofit organization, where he is valued for his terrific efficiency, his ability to be calm under pressure.

Mr. Venner had a large desire to care deeply for a woman, to be devoted to someone, but, he told us, he was ashamed of angers that seemed to explode out of nowhere, including towards women. He was at the point of leaving New York to see if somewhere else he would feel better--would "figure out what was causing me to feel I had this great void to fill. I ached for happiness," he wrote. [8-14-99] Then, he learned of Aesthetic Realism.

In his first consultation, he told us he wanted to change his "relation to people--and women especially." We saw a cheerful but serious looking young man with a warm smile, glad to be there, who said, factually, "I can feel a rage with people and then shut down--feel stifled and be unable to express myself."

When we asked which was greater--his temperature when he was angry and protecting himself, or his temperature about understanding a woman, he said wryly, "My temperature about understanding a woman wouldn't melt metal." He was in the midst of a man's confusion about coolness and warmth--a confusion that arises from contempt for the world, which didn't know he had. From this contempt came that feeling of void he wrote of.

We asked him, "Which is more complicated, a woman or the electronic pathways of a computer network?"

DV. The pathways. To me they are more unpredictable and unknown.

Cons. That answer, Mr. Venner, shows lack of respect for the self of a woman.

Many men have felt that women were predictable: all they need to be happy is oneself. Dan Venner said women turned to him for understanding. "All my life," he said, I wanted to please women -- show I care for them by adoring them -- filling their needs at the moment." But there was another side: "If I don't get my adoration in return," he said, "I can get very angry." His previous relationships had failed, and now that he was seeing a woman he hoped to care for, Sharon Kelly, God, how he wanted to be different!

We saw that Dan Venner had a notion of warmth which was simply false. Ellen Reiss describes in The Right Of,

Our egos define "warm" as "making us the most important thing in the world, the way our mothers perhaps did"; and anything that does not do that seems cold to us. [The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, issue no. 1300]

This way of seeing began with Dan Venner's boyhood. "My aunt," he wrote, "was always doting on us and her place had fruit trees. Deer came to eat the apples in the fall. It was a wonderland." He felt his devotion was indispensable to her. When we asked why, he said:

DV. I thought my aunt was missing affection from my uncle and wanted to make up for it with me.

Cons. Do you think that you made it too easy? You thought what she was looking for from life was you?

What does a woman really want, what is real encouragement, real warmth? To be equipped to answer this question, a man has to become intelligent about the women we first knew -- see their inner lives scientifically and artistically. We assigned Mr. Venner to write about his Aunt Tanya: What was she hoping for? Get within her feelings. What criticism did she have of herself? "I see now that I did not care to know her as she hoped," he said. "I looked more for how I affected her."

Daniel Venner had a true desire to be sweet, to be honestly warm--but this was right next to a feeling that he had to be on his guard. He would begin thinking suspiciously about a woman: "What is she up to???" and quickly get to what he called a "misty rage"--at the outset of which, he said, he often would "shut down." We asked if this meant he got to the repose of contempt: "Who cares what I feel--None of you matter--I'm somewhere else." And he said it did.

In one consultation he spoke about a quarrel he had with Sharon Kelly.

DV. We made arrangements to go to a concert with our friends, but that day, Sharon came down with a bad cold and I had to cancel going out. Meanwhile, she felt well enough to go to work anyway. All I know is I started to get into a bad mood and somehow when she came home, I blew up at her.

Cons. Let's look at this scientifically. Was there a certain structure of logic that led up to this anger, or is it like a thunderstorm that flies out of the sea onto the Maine coast?

DV. That's what it feels like.

Mr. Venner told us he had stayed home from work that day to do domestic chores, so Sharon could rest when she got back from work. He cleaned the house, put the laundry in the wash, and waited--but he was saying to himself:

DV. "This would have been a nice day to go out. But Sharon is sick. And look at what I have to clean! The laundry isn't even done yet--the dryer isn't working. When she gets home she'll probably just waltz out to the concert anyway, and I'll be stuck in the house with wet laundry, trying to get it dry for tomorrow."

Cons. The cleaning, the laundry--and Sharon's cold ... were you looking to hate one thing after another?

DV. Yes, I was

Cons. Did you see them as in a conspiracy to get you? -- Then you felt like a hero fighting against some big enemy?

DV. Boy that's the just builds and your adrenaline starts to get going!

Cons. Do you think Sharon has enough goodness and sense to see what you are doing and appreciate it?

DV. Yes I do. Thank you. I felt awful.

In The Right Of, Ellen Reiss describes what was going on in him, when she writes:

In our desire for contempt, we hope the outside world is cold, because a cold world is a world to which we, in our sensitivity, can feel superior. If things are truly warm to us, we will have to feel grateful to them! [TRO 1300]

"It really started to get clear in my mind," he told us in a later consultation--"that I have an attitude to the world!"

Dan Venner is changing, because the way he sees the world and the inner lives of women is changing. His colleagues at work have seen he only rarely gets into a "mood." He is studying the opposites in objects, and people, and has written about, for example, freedom and order in a musical composition; heaviness and lightness in an East Side building. The young man who felt, with desperation, that life was a void is coming to feel that the world itself is not the cold, inimical place he had once thought--that, in fact, it can be a warm, and unexpected friend. He and Sharon Kelly have been closer and their conversations are deeper.

My colleagues and I are proud to be part of this ongoing education--and that men like Daniel Venner are learning how to make sense of warmth and coolness in their lives: making them happier and kinder.


Important Links to know about

As an educator myself I have used, and highly recommend to every teacher, the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method. This educational method, taught by Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism, has been successfully used to teach a wide variety of subjects (K-12 and beyond) for over 30 years. Students learn their subjects with a beautiful eagerness and thoroughness. The most compact introduction to the theory of aesthetics on which Aesthetic Realism is based would be "Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?" and the chapter "The Aesthetic Method in Self- Conflict" from Self and World. Some of the many subjects Aesthetic Realism is resoundingly true about include not only the very basis of aesthetics in general, but photography in particular; not only conflict in the human self as such but a new perspective for anthropology and sociology in particular and a way of seeing a person, whether man or woman, in relation to history, current events, and art--as the website created by Lynette Abel shows -- and that by journalist Alice Bernstein, an Aesthetic Realism Associate. The large online body of work on these very subjects has been provided by Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, who writes on the "criticism" of John Keats as well as, for example, on poet Robert Burns, and much more. Meanwhile, to learn more about Mr. Siegel, you can visit the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company, as well as biographical information on the Aesthetic Realism Foundation website. Meanwhile, I am sorry to say that as has occurred so often in history, a very few people have attempted to smear this new knowledge and present it as far from what it truly is. This is documented on the important website titled Friends of Aesthetic Realism—Countering the Lies--which I hope you visit.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Terrain Gallery / Aesthetic Realism Foundation

This is the 50th year of the Terrain Gallery's steady artistic and philosophic presence in the New York City art scene. And the Terrain is celebrating its 50th Anniversary!

Soon there will be an anniversary exhibition--look for it, and the exciting works of many artists which will be shown.

Visit the Aesthetic Realism Foundation / Terrain Gallery website -- learn about the history of the Terrain -- and read the articles in the news about the Terrain, its exhibitions, and the Aesthetic Realism art history and criticism that are unique to this Gallery.

Additional Links


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

More Resources Sustaining Rev. Wayne J. Plumstead

I am glad to bring to your attention two articles. One is by Winnie Stubbs, the lay leader and Chairperson of the Personnel Committee of the church pastored by Rev. Wayne Plumstead whose writings I tell about in a recent entry. And one article is by Jack Plumstead, the father of Wayne Plumstead.

The careful article by Mrs. Stubbs is posted on "Friends of Aesthetic Realism--Countering the Lies" under this title: Statement by Winnie Stubbs, Lay Leader, Park United Methodist Church (Bloomfield, NJ). To read her Statement about Rev. Wayne Plumstead, click here.

And the moving article by Jack Plumstead, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for many years, can be seen too on the "Friends of Aesthetic Realism" website. You can find it under the title Statement by Jack Plumstead (Father of Rev. Wayne Plumstead).

Under the title Aesthetic Realism, Ethics, & Literature: February 2005 further links are provided to the above pages sustaining Wayne Plumstead, United Methodist minister.

An article that you should know about is one in which Rev. Plumstead is quoted criticizing "dotbusters." This is a term used in Jersey City, where he was then pastor, for persons who attacked Indian-Americans of Hindu faith. The article was in Hinduism Today, November, 1987, and can be seen on their website. To read Wayne Plumstead in Hinduism Today click here.

Anti racism resources

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Eli Siegel: A Brief Biography

I am glad to reprint this biographical information about Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism, with whom I studied from 1968-1978. I want this information, which is exact although it is brief, to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. And so I am reprinting it on this weblog to add my voice to many others.


ELI SIEGEL (1902-1978), poet, critic, philosopher, educator, grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.* In 1925 his "Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana" won the esteemed Nation Poetry Prize. "I say definitely," William Carlos Williams was to write of it, "that that single poem, out of a thousand others written in the past quarter century, secures our place in the cultural world." Beginning in 1941, the year he founded the philosophy Aesthetic Realism, Mr. Siegel gave thousands of lectures on poetry, history, economics — all the arts and sciences. And he gave thousands of individual lessons to men, women, and children, which taught a new way of seeing the world based on this principle: "The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites."

These lessons are the basis of Aesthetic Realism consultations now given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York and by telephone worldwide. There are also public seminars and dramatic presentations, and classes, including a workshop in the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method — the educational method used with historic success for over 25 years in classrooms from elementary school through college.

Among Mr. Siegel's many published works are Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism; Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana: Poems, which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1958 (John Henry Faulk, speaking of the poems in this book, said on CBS radio, "Eli Siegel makes a man glad he's alive"); Hail, American Development, containing 178 poems, including 32 translations; James and the Children: A Consideration of Henry James's "Turn of the Screw"; and Goodbye Profit System: Update.

Eli Siegel taught how crucial it is for people, in order to like themselves, to want to know and respect other people and the world. The following passionate, logical, musical lines from "Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana" stand for that just way of seeing — which he had all the time:

The world is waiting to be known; Earth, what it has in it! The past
is in it;
All words, feelings, movements, words, bodies, clothes, girls, trees,
stones, things of beauty, books, desires are in it; and all are to
be known;
Afternoons have to do with the whole world;
And the beauty of mind, feeling knowingly the world!



Saturday, February 12, 2005

Rev. Wayne Plumstead Writes on the Aesthetics of Religion

Over the years I have had many conversations with Rev. Wayne Jack Plumstead of the United Methodist Church. How he sees the aesthetics of religion is important in the history of religious thought. The junction of religion and art is a deeply traditional junction, honored by people for thousands of years. There is religious painting in the Sistine Chapel and in the spacious underground temple chambers of the Hopi in Oraibi, New Mexico; religious dancing not only among the ancient Greeks but among the ancient San people of the Kalahari Desert, South Africa; religious singing not only in Irish monasteries of the 14th century but Egypt, the Congo, India, China, Tibet since time immemorial.

And yet what Reverend Plumstead says about the relation of religion and aesthetics is new. In his education with Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, and with Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, Rev. Plumstead has been encouraged to see with ever greater width and and scope just how much that relation takes in.

To inform you as well as I can about his work, I place the following links on this weblog:

  • "How Much of the World Does Jesus Ask Us to Include?" by Wayne Jack Plumtead. This was published in The Circuit Rider, the national journal of the United Methodist Church.
    [Another link to this article is in the United Methodist Publishing House online index to the Circuit Rider.]
  • In his weblog, "The Aesthetics of Religion" Rev. Plumstead writes a message to his visitors which begins: "On this blog I will be posting writings of mine and others that tell what I have learned from the philosophy Aesthetic Realism, founded by the American educator and poet Eli Siegel in 1941, about the relation of religion and aesthetics. What I learned has revolutionized not only my way of seeing religion, but my entire life as well. I am pleased and very excited to share it with you all."
  • In an article announcing a Parenting Workshop in Bloomfield Life, Rev. Plumstead is quoted as saying that the panel of Aesthetic Realism consultants "will speak about what parents need to know in order to get the true respect of their children." -- A most crucial subject!
  • Also in Bloomfield Life, Rev. Wayne Plumstead writes about the student massacre in Littleton Colorado, under the title "Contempt Kills." Here he tells of the deadly effects of that lessening of other human beings, and the world itself, which Aesthetic Realism explains. And states: "I have seen vividly that no person can commit an act of violence against another if they see the depths of that person’s feelings as real as their own. " That kind of seeing--to see as real others' feelings--is one of the most essential things in successful art.
I hope everyone sees the immediate practicality of aesthetics for religion--in the striking meaning given to it by Rev. Plumstead.

Sincerely, Arnold Perey

Friday, February 04, 2005

On Socrates' Death. An allegory concerning Eli Siegel and an unimportant liar.

A Dramatic and Cautionary Tale about an Unknown and Very Unimportant Person

There once was a young man of ancient Greece named Milos. And Milos knew Socrates. He did not like Socrates because the great man asked far too many questions. And even worse, though he said he knew nothing, he knew more than Milos.

Now Milos had a mother who regarded him as a gift to Greece. And she thought of Socrates as a much-overrated busybody and heretic. And Milos was not immune to either the praise his mother gave him or the blame she laid upon others.

Milos was interested in power. And when he attended the Dialogues of Socrates he felt he should be teaching the students, not that old philosopher. Listening to Socrates made him sleepy. When the youths would exclaim “What a great man!” and eagerly discuss new ideas, as they came from afternoons when Socrates conversed freely with all, Milos was angry. He wanted them to say “That Milos! What a great mind!” and discuss his exploits at gaming and not the arguments of Socrates. But they didn’t. “I should be the toast of Athens,” thought Milos, and grumbled to himself while looking as pleasant as he could.

“He forces them to attend,” he would say about the people who couldn’t get enough of listening to Socrates, the people who came again and again, the people who felt a man like Socrates was born once in a hundred years (if that often). “It’s expected of them to come,” he grumbled. “If they don’t come to 9 out of 10 dialogues they are chastised. It’s that infamous student of Socrates named Plato that makes them come. Perhaps if I blacken the name of Plato they will stay away.” And he tried.

In the Dialogues, when the students in their turn questioned Socrates, and he answered even the most difficult questions with depth and sweetness and thorough (and modest) logic, it made Milos angrier than ever. “How could he know so much,” he would say under his breath and grit his teeth.

“Perhaps,” thought Milos, “if I remove my garments and run naked through the marketplace people would see the originality of my mind.” And so he did. But the people of Athens went on buying their vegetables and fruit, and fish, and bread as always and were neither sufficiently scandalized nor sufficiently impressed to suit Milos. “Never mind, I’ll try it again another time,” he said comfortingly to himself.

Milos began to lie in earnest about Socrates. He made up offenses which had never taken place, for the great man who only had spoken to Milos a few times wished him well. He’d tried to teach Milos, but without success. Unfortunately, in asking Socratic questions of Milos, a person was addressed who hated to learn from another. “Too many questions!” said the young man sneeringly to his mother, meaning, “Too many questions for me to maintain my usual level of narcissism.”

Milos sought revenge. He told everyone he could, in the council, the marketplace, the homes of friends, that Socrates was trying to tear down the great tradition of Greece: the worship of the living gods—Apollo, Zeus, Dionysius. He told the priests how the old man believed in a higher power and had questioned the gods’ very existence, despite the fact that everyone could see them, made of marble and wood and gold and paint, in the city’s “cultus” temples of worship. He accused Socrates of leading a new and heretical cultus in which he was the object of worship himself.

There is no record as to whether the lies of the young vermin, Milos, had an effect or not. For there were already some local officials and jealous intellectuals whose lust to be superior had spurred in them a sullen and restless anger at the brilliance and plentitude of ideas coming from the philosophic school of Socrates.

And so, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, more than 2000 years afterwards, Professor Edward Taylor of Oxford and Edinburgh tells how a "half-witted" and "fanatic" prosecutor indicted Socrates for “impiety.” And at the trial vague charges like "corrupting the youth" were made. And the court, “incensed” at the great man for telling them truthfully that he “merited the treatment of an eminent benefactor”—and not a trial for crimes he did not commit— sentenced him to death by drinking the cup of poison hemlock. The greatest philosophic innovator of Greece was to pay with his life.

In the famous depiction of Socrates by the French painter David, the man of thought, condemned to death by suicide, discourses serenely in prison with his friends and students—the poisoned cup in his raised hand. In the Dialogue Crito, his friend begs him to escape, to flee Athens, and not take his life as the law has dictated. But Socrates cannot not bring himself to flee. He has done no wrong and will not break the law now.

After Athens mourned the loss of the man who reasoned nobly about beauty, ethics, life and death, and equality—the man who believed knowledge was happiness—Milos continued his campaign of revenge. He wanted to demolish utterly the contemporary who dared to know more than himself. And so he started in on Socrates’ posthumous reputation. He would whisper to known purveyors of the lowest gossip; he would grasp the collar of whomever he could in the marketplace and say, spitting ever so slightly, “How great was Socrates, really? He said self-knowledge made for a happy life. But how happy was he? He committed suicide.”

Yes, Socrates is safe in the bosom of history. And Milos is no longer remembered. The perfidy of ancient Athens, however, is remembered; and it always will be. Now, in our time, we have to ask: How much is this injustice, oh this murderous injustice, in action this very day?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Countering the Lies about Aesthetic Realism, about Its Founder, Eli Siegel, and about Others

Some of the vilest and yet most transparent lies I have ever seen are to be found in web pages written by Michael Bluejay (formerly Michael Fabrizio) whom I knew, slightly, when he was a small child.

I was friendly with his mother and father at the time. I very briefly studied dance in a class his mother gave, together with a number of other students, but I soon realized that dance was not my strong point. Nevertheless, I found that her employment of the Aesthetic Realism method made her an excellent teacher and I benefited from what I learned about movement and enjoyed the way she taught. At the time she was on the faculty of Long Island University.

Along with his own lies, Michael Bluejay has posted literally pages of lies by some anonymous individuals. These anonymities he obviously encouraged by offering to put their quite unbelievable writings online.

I despise the desire to hurt people by lying about them publicly. And so I recommend to anyone who encounters this "flotsam of cybespace" while you are surfing the web--go to Friends of Aesthetic Realism--Countering the Lies, visit the Aesthetic Realism Foundation web site, read some of Eli Siegel's beautiful prose. And I imagine I'll reprint some of the funny satires that are now on "Countering the Lies" right here on this blog.

More later,
Best regards,


The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method
The Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company
Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism: A Biography
Friends of Aesthetic Realism—Countering the Lies
Photography Education: the Aesthetic Realism Viewpoint
The Terrain Gallery / Aesthetic Realism Foundation
Aesthetic Realism: A New Perspective for Anthropology & Sociology
Lynette Abel / Aesthetic Realism and Life
Alice Bernstein, Aesthetic Realism Associate
Ellen Reiss writes on the "criticism" of John Keats
Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, on poet Robert Burns
About Eli Siegel
Eli Siegel's 'Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?'

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Look for me on ebay

I have just put a short listing of myself on ebay. You can find it here: Arnold Perey, anthropologist, Aesthetic Realism consultant.

If you're registered on ebay yourself, you can have a page too. It's a very visible Web site and people can pretty easily find you there and see what you want to say. Some of my enthusiasms are posted there, in outline form, and soon I'll go back and write a bit more.

Eventually I'd like to have my new book Gwe,Young Man of New Guinea: a novel against racism on ebay and see if it's practical to sell copies there.

Till later,